It is easy to condemn violent protests by angry Muslims, but often nothing is said to those who provoke these reactions by denigrating the sacred beliefs of others. They are thought to be exercising their freedom of speech.
Events since the anti-Islam video and cartoon were released have served to open my eyes to why some people in the Muslim world would continue to deny the holocaust. For a student of history who taught the subject at the highest level possible, I do indeed believe there were dark days in Europe when Jews were hunted down, their women, children and all, and either hacked down in the streets or sent to gas chambers. This is a historical fact and attempting to deny it merely serves other purposes.
Never mind the fact that, in their attempt to right that wrong, Jews and their Western allies are perpetrating a modern day genocide on an unimaginable proportion, not against the descendants of their former tormentors but against a people who had no hand in the extermination of Jews. Put bluntly, the hateful and hurtful Israeli occupation of Palestine must end.
For many in the Muslim world, the temptation is always there to deny the holocaust as a way of getting even. Holocaust denial, despite all talk of freedom of speech, unsettles hawkish Jews and their equally hawkish friends in the West. To these hawks, denial of the holocaust is the worst crime anyone could commit. Nothing else pushes a blind hawk to the edge.
To a lesser degree is the idea of a second holocaust when some people talk of wiping off Israel. While this is true, the average Jew and his unquestioning friend in the West see nothing wrong in denying or depicting Jesus; after all Judaism has, for the past two thousand years, denied him. Till date, the average Jew still regards Jesus as an impostor; not a great prophet and messenger of God, as Muslims revere him or, as some Christians call him, a saviour and God. What this boils down to is that the average Jew and his friends in the West will most likely celebrate rather than condemn any depiction of Jesus. And here is the dilemma for the average Muslim.
Very early in life, the Muslim child is taught to show respect for all prophets of God including Jesus. They are taught to consider their faith incomplete if they denies any of the prophets of God. The Muslim, right from an early stage in life is aware, in line with the teachings of the Qur'an, that Jesus performed his first miracle as a baby in the arms of his mother when he spoke in defence of her. The Muslim child is taught early in life to attest that Jesus raised the dead, made the blind see and cured a leper. The Muslim child is made aware that Jesus performed these and several other miracles by the power of God, according to the Qur'an and, as Jesus is recorded in the Bible, 'by myself, I can do nothing'!
Every pre-Madrasa going Muslim child believes Jesus was crucified, saved from death and taken up by God; just as Jesus himself alludes to in the Bible when he reinforced his prophethood when he referred an 'adulterous generation' to the sign of Prophet Jonah. And what is the sign of Jonah? For three days and nights, Prophet Jonah was alive in the belly of a whale; not dead and, certainly not spiritualized! So the Muslim child is taught that Jesus, this great prophet of God, was not killed, but was lifted to heaven by God and that he will come back to complete his mission on earth. What is more, Muslim parents teach their children to revere Mary, the mother of Jesus, who has a whole chapter named in her honour in the Qur'an.
Problem here is that while some people see nothing wrong in casting aspersions on prophets and messengers of God, others are taught to show respect for them and, if need be, defend them. That has been the basis for the violent, often deadly protests in Muslim countries, each time some cartoonists or amateur film makers depict prophets. But the Muslim is in a dilemma because they cannot cast aspersions on prophets of God as doing that amounts to apostasy; it amounts to abandoning the faith.
Protests similar to the ones that greeted the anti-Islam video and cartoon are likely to be staged in the Muslim world if some Copt or Jew depicts Jesus. As a result of their dilemma, I believe some Muslims simply devised the idea of denying the holocaust to get even since such denials hurt some people. If you asked any Iranian Mullah or the most moderate of Muslims, they are unlikely to provide convincing reasons as to why they deny the holocaust. Just as you are most likely going to draw a blank if you questioned the most unrepentant Islamophobic on the rationale behind depicting prophets. They both know they are insincere in their denials; a matter of ego boosting. Do me I do you! ; that's the name in my native Nigeria.
It is just as well that some members of the cast and crew of the vexing video have gone public to tell the world they too are surprised at the rate at which their film was reworked to depict Prophet Muhammad and denigrate him. One of them even said at no point was the name of Prophet Muhammad mentioned in the original work and that some members of the cast were sent death threats if they spoke against the film in public. It is interesting that some people in the West talk glibly of freedom of speech when it suits them but go on to set barriers when it hurts. Many people have been killed and are under threat of being killed for exercising their fundamental rights of denying the holocaust just as fatwas have been proclaimed against people who depicted and denigrated prophets of God in the past.
Flowing from these, there is good reason to believe that there is much to the war on terror than the world is made to believe. To Washington, the death of the American ambassador to Libya, unfortunate as it is, is a terrorist act; no point addressing the genesis of the act. Those who ignited this round of terrorism, in the United States and France, are shielded from blame under some curious fundamental rights.
And as we talk, someone somewhere, under the guise of freedom of speech may be perfecting another provocative video or cartoon that will seek to draw out 'Allahu Akbar' chanting Muslims, making bonfires of the Stripes and Stars and shouting 'Death to America' with the ultimate aim of projecting Muslims as violent and intolerant. Such provocations only serve to draw many people in the Muslim world to the fold of Al Qaeda and its carbon copies. Fear is such provocations serve to fuel Muslim anger against America and do not help make America - and the world - safer.
- Abdulrazaq Magaji is based in Abuja, Nigeria.